Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Would You Like Some Cleaning Solvent With Your Fries, Sir?"

My wife is a Director of Development at one of the most prestigious public universities in the United States. In essence, her job is to be nice to people and to ask them for money. Part of my wife's job is attending receptions and dinners. Every so often, I get dragged along to some hellacious "spouses mandatory" event. I do not exaggerate when I say that I usually hate these events with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.

The dinner that I attended this past Saturday was an exception. I wound up sitting at a table with a couple of history professors visiting from Canada. It didn't take long before we started swapping tales about the cultural distinctions between Canada and the United States.

The best story of the evening was recounted by a history professor from UBC. Last summer, he and his family were driving through western Pennsylvania and pulled into a roadside diner for lunch. The professor asked the server for some vinegar for his fries. She responded with a confused look. When the professor assured her that, yes, he really wanted vinegar for his fries, she nodded and disappeared. A few moments later, the server appeared at the table with an industrial-sized jar of vinegar. As she struggled to pour a small amount into a saucer, the server explained that she was surprised that the professor actually wanted vinegar on his fries. She'd never heard of that before and found it odd--the only reason that the restaurant had vinegar on hand was to use it as an "environmentally friendly" cleaning solvent!

I long, long, long ago gave up trying to get vinegar for my fries down here. The few times that I was told that I could get vinegar, it always turned out to be that nasty, urine-colored malt stuff. My advice to Canadians visiting the United States? Don't even bother asking for vinegar with your fries. Just appreciate it as one of the good things about living north of the border!

No comments: